He wasn’t really my uncle–he was my wife’s uncle–but . . . he was my Uncle Fred and I loved him deeply.
Fred Smith is one of the most extraordinary men I’ve ever known.
Here’s what I wrote about Uncle Fred in my book, Scripture to Live By
Some people don’t see what other people see.
Some look at the glass and they see enough water, but others don’t see enough.
My wife’s uncle Fred is one of those who always sees the glass as having more than enough water, even if only a drop remains. It’s not that he has that much faith in the drop; it’s that he has that much faith in God.
Fred, who ministers in Jacksonville, Florida, was a preacher. He faithfully served the same church for over forty years. During that time they started thirteen churches. Where others saw a challenge, Uncle Fred saw an opportunity. It takes a lot of work—and faith—to start one church, let alone thirteen. Fred’s faith in God was bigger than any obstacle they would face. Most of the churches are alive and well, but one is now the largest Christian church in the state of Florida with over 4,000 members.
Almost thirty years ago, Uncle Fred has a vision for a Bible College in Central Florida. He began praying and working to see this dream become a reality. He was told again, and again, that there was no way he was going to be able to start a Bible College, but Uncle Fred doesn’t see what others see.
One day a woman gave Fred a check for $3000 to start that Bible College he’d been talking about. He took that money and put it to work for God. And in 1975, Central Florida Bible College (now Florida Christian College) began meeting in a church building. Now, thirty years later, Florida Christian College sits on a beautiful forty acre multi-million dollar campus in Kissimmee, Florida, and is a fully-accredited Christian College training men and women for ministry from the church to the school to the mission field to the workplace.
Fred saw a college where others saw only orange groves and mosquitoes.
Fred reminds me of Caleb.
Caleb and eleven other men were sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. The Israelites had been wandering for forty years and were just about to enter the land God promised to them back when their parents were slaves in Egypt. When the twelve spies came back from exploring the land they reported that the land was wonderful.
“It does flow with milk and honey,” they reported (Num. 13:27).
“But . . .”
They continued, “The people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak there” (Num. 13:28).
Caleb’s faith was bigger than any giants living in any land.
He silenced the people and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30).
They did do it and we can, too.
We are surrounded by giants: giant diseases, giant financial problems, giant family issues, giant wars, giant storms, giant fears, but we must see those “giants” for who they really are. These giants are tiny when compared with the bigness of God.
When you look at the “giants” in your land, remember that God has already promised the land to all of his children, so even though we face fear we must have faith: “we can certainly do it.”
We must see opportunity when others see an obstacle.
We must see the Promised Land when others see giants.
And, we must see faith when others only see fear.
Uncle Fred was a mentor to me, one of my heroes, and a man I loved, so much.
I’ve known Uncle Fred since I was 8-yrs-old through his work at Florida Christian College (Central Florida Bible College at the time).
I got to know him more when I started dating one of his nieces and he warned me, “Don’t you hurt her!”
He was so important to my wife and me that we asked him to perform our wedding. He warned me not to cry in the ceremony, but I started to cry during my vows and he lovingly and patiently repeated the vows until I said them properly.
I lived with Uncle Fred and Aunt Mo for three months when I accepted a call to minister in Jacksonville.
That was a rich experience for me.
Jokingly, when Fred, Madonna, and I reflected on that time, I’d always say, “I will always cherish the time I spent with you both on Golden Pond.” (If you know Fred and have seen the movie, “On Golden Pond,” you’ll get this.)
During this time, Uncle Fred and I enjoyed eating breakfast at the Famous Amos.
The last time I saw Uncle Fred was when my wife and I had breakfast with Fred and Madonna at the Famous Amos last November.
I miss him, so much.
Since my Dad died when I was 19, I really appreciated the guidance Uncle Fred gave me through so many of the important times of my life.
He was a father-figure to me and I’m so grateful for the wonderful guidance and advice he gave me throughout my adult life.
He was a true visionary who never laughed when I shared my dreams with him. He got me. He was a dreamer who dreamed big dreams for God.
Man, I loved him.
I can’t think of him today without crying.
I can’t think of him and not smile.
He was one of the most loving men I’ve ever known.
He had a deep love for people.
He had a passionate love for God.
He loved the Church.
He loved missions (he was “Mr. Faith Promise”).
He loved Englewood Christian Church–where he served for almost 40 years as the Sr. Minister and even longer in retirement.
He loved Florida Christian College.
He loved Woody’s Bar-B-Que.
He loved the Florida Gators. Yuck!
He loved watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
He loved watching 24 with me and Aunt Mo–even though he acted like he hated it.
He loved Luigi’s Italian restaurant.
He loved Beach Road Chicken.
He loved the Famous Amos.
He loved Thai food . . . and that disgusting soup he made me try that tasted like suntan lotion!
He loved food. 🙂
He loved dreaming big dreams.
He loved his family–of which, I was blessed to be a member.
He loved his precious wife, Madonna.
And he was loved in return.
I’m not going to be able to attend his funeral tomorrow in Florida, so I’d like to share with you what I would have shared there.
Uncle Fred, I’m going to miss you. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with me. Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for believing in God so courageously. You were a man of God. You were a man of great faith. You were a man of great love. Your legacy will resonate throughout all eternity.
I respected you Uncle Fred.
I love how you loved God, His Son, and Christ’s Church. You were a wonderful minister.
I love how you loved your family. Wow! You were a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and uncle.
I loved you Uncle Fred and I’m going to miss you, so much.
I know you are with the Lord you loved and served so faithfully. I know you are finally home. I know that you are no longer sick. I know that you are no longer taking all of those pills. I know you are experiencing a joy that can’t be expressed in earthly terms.
I know that you’ve already heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
I know that you are probably already envisioning ways that you can make the “many things”–you are now in charge of–even better and that you’re probably trying to convince the Lord that a trailer park in Heaven might have a lot of upside.
I know that you are going to be missed here on Earth.
I know that you wanted nothing more than for your family, friends, and the people you served to make it to Heaven, too.
I know that you want all of us to keep doing all we can to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Please know that I loved you and I will do everything I can–with every moment I have in this life–to make it to Heaven and take as many people with me as possible.
I know I will see you again and I can’t wait.